September 21, 2023

Stranger on the border: Speaking with North Korean-born artist Oh Sung-cheol

From three years in an embassy basement to exhibitions in Seoul

South Korean media reported last October that the number of defectors from North Kore exceeded thirty thousand. The report coincided with my interview with Oh Sung-cheol, who was wrapping up his exhibition in gallery Art World in southwest Seoul.

Titled ‘Strangers on the border,’ it was a group show by Oh and two other artists from North Korea. Wearing thick-rimmed glasses, a checkered shirt under a slightly oversized cardigan, and a pair of jeans, he seems perfectly assimilated. His work, however, raw in color and in presentation, tells a different story.